Obama’s ACA ‘Fix’ Will Be Tricky To Implement In Alaska

President Obama said today insurers can continue offering the plans they intended to cancel as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The announcement is a response to outcry over the President’s “if you like your plan you can keep it” promise, which turned out to be untrue for millions of Americans.

Now, state insurance regulators and insurance companies have to figure out if they can make Obama’s new plan work.

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Last month, Premera Alaska sent out health insurance cancellation notices to more than 5000 people in the state. With President Obama’s new announcement, the company may be able to send out very different letters to those same people. But Premera spokesperson Eric Earling says it will take a few days to sort out how to proceed.

“Premera is assessing what this means, we’re going to be evaluating options for our consumers and then getting them information as soon as we feasibly can on what their options are,” he said.

Earling says there is already a lot of confusion over the Affordable Care Act and this new twist is likely to increase that confusion. And he says the change will create a lot of work for Premera, but ultimately, he thinks it’s good for customers.

“As a general principal, yes, we’d prefer to have more options, not less in helping them navigate changes relating to the Affordable Care Act,” Earling said.

There are a lot of tricky details to consider. First, Alaska’s Insurance director Bret Kolb has to figure out whether these canceled insurance plans can be revived. He’s not sure if it’s possible under state law and in such a compressed timeline.

“It will be a big job,” he said. “A lot of the burden I believe would end up falling on the insurers first and then back onto the state to review rates and forms in a very expedited manner, if that’s even a possibility.”

Kolb plans to make a determination as quickly as possible.

Senator Lisa Murkowski has been critical of President Obama’s “If you like your plan you can keep it” promise. But she’s not sure the President has found a good fix:

“I’m just not sure how workable this is,” Murkowski said.

And Murkowski is frustrated the president’s proposal only extends the canceled insurance plans for a limited time.

“Now he’s saying you can keep your plan for a year if the insurance companies are able to kind of recalibrate if you will, and provide for that policy,” she said.

Murkowski’s office has heard from several Alaskans upset over their insurance plan cancellations in the last month.

The State Division of Insurance estimates 9,000 Alaskans received cancellation notices this fall because of the Affordable Care Act.

Annie Feidt is the broadcast managing editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at afeidt@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Annie here

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